Drenched from the rain, I stepped inside from the Women’s March in San Francisco. I checked my phone to see Facebook imbued with posts both criticizing and praising the marches happening around the world. One of the more striking posts that friends of mine had shared was a video by the infamous conservative voice Tomi Lahren, who has enjoyed widespread fame through Facebook. Angered by the notion that pro-life activists were turned away at the march, she claimed, “The marchers are pretty… selective on just who fits their mold of empowerment. But it’s not just the marchers, it’s the feminist movement…” I rolled my eyes, but she did ask a good question: can pro-life activists be feminists as well?
It’s a hard question to answer, but I ultimately think no. But, before getting into why, it’s crucial we define what a ‘feminist’ is. Feminism is defined by Professor Elisabeth Friedman, chair of USF’s Politics Department, as “the belief that gendered relations of power…result in the subordination of women to men.” Historians understand feminism as a series of waves that have resulted in progress, like the right to vote and representation in forms of government. The modern day feminist movement is comprised of two important ideas: intersectionality and inclusiveness. While the previous waves left out the LGBTQ+ community and people of color, today’s wave—especially of late—embodies the acceptance of all women, for all women. But if your beliefs hurt all women, then you are not a feminist. This is why Lahren is right in one aspect: feminism does not include certain beliefs, particularly the beliefs of pro-lifers.
By definition, feminism rebuts any oppression of women, and refusing women complete control over their bodies is oppressive no matter which way it’s looked at. Think about it this way: women earned the right to own land property before they earned the right to their own inherent property: their reproductive organs. Why is it oppressive to deny women the right to own property, but acceptable to deny them the right to their own bodies? Denying a woman the right to choose what her body can or cannot do is anti-woman. It is the antithesis of feminism. It is why pro-lifers were and should have been frowned upon joining the Women’s March.
Retrospectively, the Women’s March was an empowering movement, celebrating progressive values like the right to choose. Though pro-life activists faced criticism from marchers, it doesn’t mean the event wasn’t for them. The feminist marchers were not merely empowering those who came, they marched for those who didn’t come. They marched for the Tomi Lahren’s of the world who don’t fully understand feminism. They marched for those who feel like they don’t need feminism, and those that do. Feminists of the Women’s March mobilized for all women.
All women for every woman. That’s the purpose of feminism.